on life, music etc beyond mainstream



Michael: Looking at the cover photo, the titles, this record seems to be inspired by some polar fanatasies, desolate Northern areas or travel books about the middle of nowhere. So, what was the idea behind?


Ivar: The idea behind the titles is mainly about the sound and the music. More about that in the answer for the next question.


Michael: I read a bit about some the academic background of this project, but, thanks god, this is not the kind of academic stuff from the ivory tower. Can you explore a bit the idea of „extending“ the now of the improvisational  sphere, how to make (knd of) the moment last longer, and how silence and quietness might add to it?


Ivar: Stop Freeze Wait Eat is one of the final artistic results of an artistic research fellowship project that I have been working on since 2011, carried out at the Norwegian Academy of Music. The project was financed by the Norwegian Artistic Research Programme, a programme for artistic practice-as-research. In this project I have produced solo improvisations that derive from the music of two improvising ensembles to which I belong: Dans les arbres and Huntsville.

I have used my own understanding and notion of these ensembles´ aesthetics and philosophy as a backdrop and a point of departure for the solo works. Trough the project I have aimed for an enhanced, articulated knowledge and understanding of my own approach as a member of two ensembles. I have tested how this knowledge can facilitate frameworks, filters and various approaches for my own solo works. The individual solo works of the project, such as Stop Freeze Wait Eat, are artistic responses to the collectively created music of the ensembles.

I am drawn to both the ensembles´ use of repetition, and small variations within repetitions, and how sounds bleed into each other, how the form composites, how we build in layers, our sparseness, our use of silence etc. I have pondered over the reasons why we rarely have pauses when we play, how our collective processes are depending on strong individuality etc.

The tiles on my solo release are mainly about elements I´m drawn to in the music of the ensembles (except the term eat in some of the titles. That´s there for other reasons.)

The opening track „Stop Freeze Wait Sing“ is a composition of layers of pitched down acoustic guitar. It was made from several sequences if improvisations, followed up by a lot of editing, restructuring, re-composing, over-dubs.

The other tracks are chiefly a result of a setup that allows me to play with what my own echo. I record what I play „in present“ with a delay unit. I send the original non-delayed signal (present) into one guitar amplifier, and the delayed signal (past) into another amplifier. What I do in „present time“ will come back to me in the second amplifier after a set time delay (usually around 10-12 seconds). This setup triggers an interesting self-dialogue. All the choices I make will come back to me after a while. I am stuck with all the ideas, good and bad, they will come back to me in a while. After a time delay. And they will stay. At least for a little while. This setup allows me to anticipate what I will have to communicate with in a while. I prepare my own surprises. I buy my own birthday present. Almost if I try to look into the future.

I think this concept works best when I am not considering the delay purely as a repetition of the real thing, as an echo, but rather something that also is the real thing.

Something that happens in present time even if it already has happened … – not purely an echo of what was, but something that is.

This combination of what I do in „present time“, my own anticipation of the near future and what I did in „past“ is what I call an „extended now“. I regard Stop Freeze Wait Eat as a collection of studies in „extended nows“.


Michael: What´s the idea of approaching a skeletal form of American folk archaics on one, two tracks. One could see it as a parallel to John Fahey´s aercheological research for lost tunes of the past … at least I got that impression.


Ivar: I hear a lot of subtle melodies and rhythm inside this dark and slow electronic landscape. Rhythm that can be quite fast, considering the general slowness of the electronic material. I think I just felt that the music needed to be cheered up a little. And this is what I heard.

I have listened a lot to John Fahey´s music, of course. I just started reading some of his stories, the other day. I didn´t really know about them, until I came across the stories collection How Bluegrass Music Destroyed My Life. I was immediately attracted to the title, of course. What a great title! I highly recommend this book.


Michael: What I love about this work, is the kind of tension and suspense it has to offer By mostly relying on sound and texture. It would be wrong to call it „ambient avant improv“,  cause I don’t know if it works as inspiring background music. At one moment The guitar (or whatever it is) sounded quite like a Japanese koto. Is there, for you, an Asian element in the whole record, apart from its Nothern territories?


Ivar: I´ve been inspired by the sound of both Japanese koto and shamisen, but I don´t recall if I ever thought about those instruments while I made this record. There is also something about the Japanese Noh tradition that is a great inspiration to a lot of the music I do. Especially the slowness and the tension, I guess.


Michael: Last question – once more, the titles. The rather special atmospheres of the music. Ascetic, stripped-down. Is there really no hidden story behind it, no peculiar imagery  – and will you tell me: it’s  all about the sound?


Ivar: It is all about the sound. Sorry to be so boring. There is no story behind. However, I like the fact that the titles give such associations, too.

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